So this time tomorrow I’ll be at the London Review Bookshop and will get my mitts on my book. I’ve spent so long dreaming of that happening that I can’t barely believe that it really is. But Amazon says that the book is out, so it must be.
There are many people that I ought to thank, so I’ll try and list some of them here. (All the poets named are ones whose poetry I much admire and have learnt from, but I am thanking them in other capacities.)
First of all, Martin Lynch, who was Writer-in-Residence when I was 19 years old at university, and who kindly took the time to read my poems and comment favourably upon them when they were probably a load of tosh. Within a few months I’d had poems published in Ireland, the USA and Britain, so I thought I was well on the way, but then life intervened for many years . . .
Then there was Katherine Gallagher, who, at British Haiku Society events 10 or more years ago, always used to ask me if I wrote longer poems and encouraged me to do so.
Pascale Petit, whose ‘Poetry from Art’ courses at Tate Modern and, once very memorably, Tate Britain, from 2008 to 2013, and Poetry School ‘Advanced Poetry’ course, were tremendously inspiring, not just to me but a whole host of other poets, many of whom have gone on to produce pamphlets and collections. Pascale had the rare knack of encouraging everyone in her classes, but without favouritism.
My friend Hamish Ironside rightly said that I ought to learn how to try different forms as well as free verse and, happily, Clare Pollard was about to start a year-long Poetry School course on ‘Form’; so I signed up and found that, completely contrary to my expectations, the restrictions of the various forms, be they sonnets, terza rima, ballads, etc., were, paradoxically, liberating. Clare’s enthusiasm for form was contagious, and tackling forms I would previously have run a mile from undoubtedly helped me to develop as a poet.
Hamish and another friend Roy Kelly, both very fine poets, gave me invaluable feedback on my poems which helped me prepare my full manuscript for the 2013 Poetry School / Pighog Press pamphlet competition, for which I was shortlisted. Even though I didn’t win, being shortlisted was endorsement enough that I was on the right track.
Two years ago, I started meeting up regularly with eight other poets, all of whom had attended Pascale’s Tate and/or Poetry School classes, to workshop poems for a couple of hours: Hanne Busck-Nielsen, Tom Cunliffe, Beatríz Echeverri, Katie Griffiths, Chris Hardy, Elizabeth Horsley, Gillie Robic and MJ Whistler. The feedback and friendship of what became the Red Door Poets were invaluable.
Last year I attended a few of the monthly Poetry Business Saturday workshop sessions in Sheffield led by Ann and Peter Sansom, and I was delighted to find that not only were they very fruitful in sparking new poems in the morning but the standard of poems for critiquing (and the standard of critique itself) in the afternoon was impressively high. Not long after, I applied for, and was thrilled to receive a place on, the Poetry Business Writing School programme 2017/2018. Thus far, the programme has made me become much more disciplined in my writing, so that it’s become a proper, daily practice, and my fellow participants have been a great help in critiquing my poems.
Finally, my biggest thanks are to Todd Swift for investing his faith, funding, advocacy and commitment in, and on behalf of, my poetry.